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close this bookPoverty Elimination and the Empowerment of Women (DFID, 2000, 51 p.)
close this folder5. Priorities for DFID
View the documentProgress so far
View the documentPurpose of the strategy
View the documentSpecific objectives
View the documentSetting priorities
View the documentChannels for action

Progress so far

5.1 The 1997 White Paper on international development48 strengthened UK policy on gender equality in a number of ways. It reaffirmed the UK's commitment to put this issue at the heart of international development work, based on a clear understanding of the direct link between gender inequality and poverty. It also explicitly recognised the vital link between human rights and poverty.

48 Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century. HMSO, London, 1997.

5.2 DFID's focus since the 1997 White Paper has been on strengthening the delivery of the policy, and finding better measures of progress. Implementation is based on a 'twin-track' approach. This combines specific activities aimed at empowering women with a commitment to put concerns about gender equality into the mainstream of development programmes49. The focus of DFID 's work is on supporting innovation and achieving impact. Some of what has been achieved in recent years with UK development assistance is shown in Box 250.

49 The concept of "mainstreaming" is drawn from the 1995 Global Platform for Action, and means several things: that before decisions are taken on a policy or programme, the likely effects on women as well as men are analysed; that wherever possible specific components addressing gender issues are designed into policies and programmes; that women as well as men are consulted in the design, implementation, and assessment of policies and programmes; that monitoring work, including the collection of statistics, seeks to examine the effects on women as well as men.

50 For further examples see: Breaking the Barriers. Women and the Elimination of World Poverty. Issues Paper, Department for International Development, London, 1998.

Box 2. Examples of DFID support for gender equality and women's empowerment

Economic and social policy

DFID has made a major contribution to the development of Participatory Poverty Assessment methods which feed the views of the poor - including women-into national policy making. The government in Uganda has adopted these methods as a routine part of its policy-making cycle.

DFID support to the Commonwealth Secretariat for: a gender budget initiative - where public spending is analysed according to how benefits will be shared by women and men - led to important changes in welfare spending and more funding for women's credit in South Africa. Similar work is being done in Sri Lanka, Fiji, and the Caribbean.

Women's economic empowerment

DFID, through its support to the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), and other financial service providers around the world have made small-scale finance (credit, savings and insurance) available to millions of poor women.

Support is being given: to: innovative approaches to bringing financial services to the poor, including ground-breaking partnerships with commercial banks in Zimbabwe and Uganda to bring community banking services to poor rural communities, with big benefits for poor women.


DFID-funded training has helped 500 women get promoted to head teacher in primary schools in Kenya in only two years.

Between 1995 and 1997, primary school enrolment in DFID-supported districts in India has risen by 6.5%. Girls enrolment rose more - by 7.5%. Among girls from scheduled castes the rise was 12.4%, and among scheduled tribes it was 9.6%.

DFID's support to non-formal education programmes in Bangladesh is enabling thousands of school drop-outs, the majority girls, to re-enter formal education.

Women in public life

DFID is supporting an innovative programme run by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to promote a central role for women in peacemaking and national reconciliation work in Tajikistan.

Training for prospective: women candidates and a women's voter education project in Kenya led to a higher turnout among women, and more women elected, in project than non-project districts.

Trade and globalisation

The growth of world trade has brought benefits to women, but it has also brought costs. Research funded by DFID has shown, for example, that women in south and south-east Asia suffer low wages and poor working conditions as a result of discrimination in the labour market, while women in Africa are unable to benefit from the opening up of new markets because they lack property rights. New work is under way to identify policy instruments to improve the opportunities for the poor created by globalisation, and reduce the negative effects on the poorest and most vulnerable, including women.

Reproductive and sexual health

DFID's support to organisations in Calcutta, India working with female commercial sex workers on HIV/AIDS reduction has resulted in HIV infection rates for commercial sex workers in the city remaining below 5% compared with 70% in similar contexts in India. As a consequence of this support, women engaged in the local sex industry have formed a self-managed co-operative, taking actions to achieve reductions in violence, increased women's access to credit and lobbying government for recognition of their rights as workers.

DFID-funded research in east Africa showed that prompt, effective treatment for sexually transmitted infections can reduce the transmission rate of HIV by up to 40%.

DFID's support to innovative work to reduce the risks of catching HIV in east Africa and Asia includes educational and awareness raising work to change gendered attitudes and empower women and girls to take more control over their sexual relationships.

Rights of the child

The UK has helped formulate a powerful new international convention, through the International Labour Organisation (ILO), to combat the worst forms of child labour. Support is also being provided to an ILO initiative to combat trafficking in children in south east Asia.

DFID has been helping the United Nations Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict protect children's rights, including girls vulnerable to abduction and rape.

Violence against women

DFID is supporting a growing portfolio of activities aimed at stopping violence against women, including work in Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Pakistan, South Africa, the Caribbean, and Zambia.

DFID has been a major contributor to a Trust Fund for the Elimination of Violence Against Women run by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

DFID is working with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to protect women against violence in refugee camps.

Basic services and infrastructure

New approaches to infrastructure programmes which emphasise service delivery linked to social benefits and women's needs are being developed with DFID's support. Work includes the use of participatory planning and assessment methods in road improvement programmes in Uganda and Ghana, and support to a 15-country research programme in Africa and Asia aimed at developing more gender-sensitive approaches to travel and transport programmes.

5.3 The proportion of DFID spending aimed at promoting gender equality has more than doubled in the second half of the 1990s51. Table 1 shows the trend in the proportion of new bilateral spending commitments since 1994 which explicitly seek to support DFID's gender equality objective. This shows a steep upswing, from 23.2% in 1994-95 to 46.0% in 1998-99 of the total of marked commitments.

51 DFID uses a Policy Information Marker System (PIMS) to track expenditure commitments in its bilateral programme against key policy objectives, including the removal of gender discrimination. Major spending commitments are marked for all of the policy objectives they seek to address. This accounts for the support we provide directly to developing countries through governments or organisations in civil society.

5.4 The UK is working to ensure that donor efforts are better co-ordinated. It plays a leading role in the Working Party on Gender Equality of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a key international body for bilateral donor co-ordination. DFID's policy framework and approach draws heavily on guidelines produced by the DAC, with significant UK inputs52.

52 DAC Guidelines for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development Co-operation, Development Co-operation Guidelines Series, OECD, Paris, 1998.

5.5 More than half the UK's budget for development assistance is spent through the European Union, the United Nations and other multilateral partners. Very close links are maintained with multilateral development agencies, including the European Commission, the UN funds and programmes, and international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the various regional development banks.

Table 1. DFID bilateral spending commitments on gender equality (PIMS data), 1994-95/98-99

Financial Year






Total PIMS marked spending commitments

£854.1 m.

£701.1 m.

£878.8 m.

£879.2 m.

£1,305,1 m.

New spending commitments with gender equality as an objective
£599.8 m.

£198.5 m.

£209.7 m.

£310.6 m.

£258.0 m.

Percentage committed to gender equality goals





53 The dip in 1997-98 is accounted for by the introduction of a revised, and more stringent, marker. Subsequent work has had to be even more focused on gender equality goals than before.

5.6 The UK is an active participant in international policy discussions and the global round of UN conferences, and is a strong supporter of the UN Secretary General's reform programme54. DFID also works closely with partners in civil society, including international NGOs and local development and community based organisations, to promote gender equality and support the women's movement in developing countries. New partnerships are also being built with the private sector and the trade union movement.

54 See Working in Partnership with the United Nations. DFID Institutional Strategy Paper, London, 1999.

5.7 New DFID recruits receive briefing on the UK's gender equality policy and objectives as part of their induction. Training in gender planning is provided for DFID personnel on a regular basis, both in the UK and overseas. DFID also invests in gender expertise in developing countries, and supports numerous initiatives in many parts of the world to train trainers and to pass on gender analysis and planning skills to government and non-government partners.